Sir PM was carrying a bag filled with goodies, when Lady Flora spotted him from afar. His cough hadn’t subsided, though, going by the booming sound that echoed in their corner seat at the Cooperage Garden.
“Happy, happy Diwali my dear Pheroze and Ms Mehta, too,” she exclaimed, “May this year be kinder and a cleaner one for Bombaywallahs. What on earth we have to deal with this precarious scenario. I mean, look at you… you’re still plagued by that horrid cough! What does one expect with this air? Sometimes, my daily Betadine gargles also don’t help after all that standing in the centre of the traffic junction, while I inhale that impure air.” Sir PM realised that his ‘wonder woman’ friend too had to take precautionary measures to fight this unwelcome scenario that had enveloped the city and its suburbs.
“On a happier note, here are some Diwali mithai that the missus sent across; I hope you like them–less oil, less spicy, just the way you prefer it,” he smiled as he handed over the gift bag of Indian sweets. It was an annual tradition–he gifted her Diwali mithai and she did the same at Christmas. “I am grateful for our thoughtful gesture. The bright spots in these, if I might add, hazy times. Why have the local authorities been so slow off the block? They seem pretty keen to give Delhi a run for its money to top the air pollution charts. I’ve been reading mid-day’s dedicated reportage about this awful reality, and clearly, the babus have been caught napping. This could have been controlled to some extent had there been stricter curbs on construction activities, for starters. We are still a bit luckier here, in this part of the Fort, but the gory stories that I overhear from passers-by, are quite frightening,” Lady Flora sighed, as she tasted some of the assorted farsan; it elevated her mood. “This savoury snack is yum; my compliments to the chef,” she smiled while looking towards her friend who had stuffed a motichoor ladoo into his mouth. He was allowed to have a few cheat days during the festivals, he reassured her.
“But tell me, Pheroze, have your friends in the BMC simply given up? Or do they care no more about the citizens’ wellbeing, or do they feel that this climate hazard will miraculously heal itself, and all will be well again? Are they ever going to look at the long-term picture? I am baffled that they don’t have experts on board to put a scientifically-approved system in place,” she sounded furious.
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“Yes, it’s been slow progress to suggest corrective measures at this stage, with Diwali in full swing, and the air getting worse with the firecrackers. Delhi and its satellite towns have banned the practice; we should have been quicker off the blocks.” Lady Flora added, “Percy [the pigeon] has been reporting to me that political parties are actually promoting the selling of fireworks at every nook and corner of the city! How irresponsible of these so-called guardians.” Sir PM wasn’t aware of this development, since he hardly ever went beyond SoBo unless it was for a festive meal to his cousin Sohrab’s home in Bandra.
Both had polished off the Diwali goodies by now. But their mood wasn’t the best with their city’s woes. “Tell me, Pheroze, will it help if we start a campaign…where we mobilise citizens’ movements and get them to make the civic corporators more answerable for a better tomorrow? We cannot allow this to repeat itself next year. Haven’t these amazing citizen heroes done cool things in the past, like ensure a UNESCO World Heritage Tag for their historic residential precinct? Some continue to fight long battles to save public gardens in Bandra, and now, the Hanging Gardens?” Lady Flora looked concerned.
After some thought, Sir PM said, “I see your point. Let me chat with a few influential, vocal and dedicated Bombaywallahs in my circle and come back with a plan. We need to move fast. Thank you, My Lady, for putting this idea in my head. That’s what we should be–custodians of this city; and if nobody at the top is doing it, we should garner enough voices, and make a lot of noise and demand action, so they sit up and take notice, lest we do actually top the charts, above Delhi in this dubious record.”
Both sutradhaars decided to reconvene soon with their notes and names. This Diwali, they saw the light, and now wanted to act upon it, to help their beloved Bombay breathe better.
mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones…wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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